Difference Between Intrinsic And Extrinsic Motivation

Motivation! It’s the thing that gets us up and working towards whatever goal it is we need to achieve. But motivation comes in two different forms: Intrinsic and extrinsic.

So what is the difference between the two? How does each influence us? And which is the more powerful?

Well, here’s some answers that’ll make understanding both forms a little easier…

The meaning of the words ‘Intrinsic’ and ‘Extrinsic’

So, in simple terms, intrinsic motivation means ‘coming from within’, and extrinsic means ‘coming from an external source’.

Intrinsic is something that is found within yourself – your own ability to ‘kick yourself up the ass’, if you like, or simply that you enjoy doing something just for the fun of doing it. Extrinsic motivation comes from something else – be it a deadline to keep, money, or to win a medal.

Examples of intrinsic motivation

intrinsic motivation

So, if we understand that intrinsic motivation is to do something because it’s rewarding on a personal level, it’s easy to see that the following are examples:

  • Playing a sport because you find it enjoyable
  • Writing a story because you enjoy creating characters and plots
  • Going to the gym because it makes you feel refreshed, alert, and good about yourself

Example of extrinsic motivation

extrinsic motivation

Moving on, we now know that extrinsic motivation comes from an outside influence. The following demonstrate such examples:

  • Working extra hours because you want to achieve that promotion at work
  • Studying like crazy to get the best results in your exams
  • Going to the gym because you want to lose weight to look great in that outfit

Did you notice that the latter in both the intrinsic and extrinsic examples are the same action, but with different reasons for doing so? The same aim can be reached by either type of motivation – or a combination of the two.

Which type is better?

Actually, we all benefit from both types of motivation. For example, extrinsic motivation can be beneficial in case such as the promise of a reward in something that at first you may have no interest. This could motivate you to acquire further knowledge or a new skill. Once learnt you may then become intrinsically motivated to further pursue the activity.

The general consensus is that intrinsic motivation is preferable. But as you can see by the above examples, extrinsic motivation can cause intrinsic motivation to occur.

Much research has been done into the benefits of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. This has led three primary conclusions:

  1. Being praised has been shown to increase internal motivation: It’s been found that positive feedback can further increase intrinsic motivation – although specific praise, rather than general praise, is more beneficial.
  2. Intrinsic motivation decreases if external rewards are given each time a particular task or minimal work is completed: For example, if parents over-praise a child for simple tasks, the child’s intrinsic motivation will decrease for future similar tasks.
  3. However, unexpected external rewards do not increase intrinsic motivation: As long as this only occurs on occasion, then it does not undermine intrinsic motivation.

In summary

As we can see, humans can benefit from both types of motivation. Some of us rely on external motivation, others from what comes from within. To find out which type motivates you more, there are various quizzes that can give you an idea to determine what gets you driving towards the success you crave.